Friday, July 5, 2013

A Thousand Suns-an excerpt

A Thousand Suns
By Jim Haberkorn

A Rulon Hurt Adventure

Chapter 1

In the bowels of the Kremlin, two hundred yards from Lenin’s tomb, late at night, hallways dark and deserted except for the occasional security guard and tired custodian, a guard made his rounds, the click of his boots echoing on the polished floor. Checking each door, he came to one and saw the fractured luminescence of a small green lamp through the frosted glass. This one he knew to avoid and moved on. The echoes of his passing faded down the hall.

Inside the room, the lamp’s soft glow dropped a dim circle of light on a gray metal desk, leaving an old man’s hollow eyes and hawk-like face securely in the shadows. He sat in a wooden roller chair talking quietly into a speakerphone. The voice on the other end was male, mid-thirties, insistent.

“Reconsider, sir. Please.”

“Why?” the thin man asked.

“The Serbians are demanding revenge,” the younger voice said.

“As they have since Kosovo Fields,” said the old man impatiently, referring to the 1389 battle with the Ottomans.

“Please reconsider, sir. Except for this, I have never asked for anything twice.”

“And that is why you are still around to annoy me,” said the old man sharply. Instant silence. Then more patiently to his protégé, “I said there would be no retaliation. I did not say we would do nothing.” The old man pressed a button, ending the call but not his dilemma. He sat thinking, slowly stroking the chair’s left arm, buffed smooth by decades of hard decisions. Both he and the chair were old comrades-in-arms, he liked to joke – both relics of the siege of Stalingrad. He tapped his finger on his laptop touchpad. For the fifth time that night, he clicked ‘play’, closed his eyes, and listened to the DVD from CERN.

The camera had been knocked over as soon as the American cowboy broke free, giving only an angled, distorted picture of a table leg, a confusion of booted feet, and the cowboy’s black loafers. The audio came through perfectly, however. An unintelligible, bellowing roar. And they say we Russians are brutes. Yells of alarm. Thudding, hammering blows. Two explosions – gun shots three seconds apart: an eternity in that room. Now screams from the dying – sounds impossible to interpret unless you saw the bodies, which the thin man had. The cowboy with his hammer. The old man tried recalling an expression he once heard. It came to him…anger management problem. He smiled grimly. The Americans and their euphemisms.

The thin man ejected the DVD, returned it to its plastic case, and resumed stroking the chair. After a few minutes, he reached into his top drawer, pulled out a file and laid it on the desk. Flipping through the tabbed sections, he came to a picture of a man and woman taken in a stairwell by a CERN surveillance camera: Rulon Hurt, cowboy from America, and Yohaba Melekson, Swiss citizen, his woman. He picked up the photo and studied the girl closely. A smart girl, he’d been told, and quite lovely. Yes, the cowboy had his reasons.

He carefully replaced the photo in the file. Yes, the cowboy would live. There would be no hollow-point bullet in the face from close range. No camouflaged sniper in the hills above the ranch in Idaho. No poison-tipped umbrella. No booby-trapped cell phone.

Neither mercy nor romanticism played a part in the thin man‘s decision. In fact, any suggestion of either would have only made him laugh. Having ordered in his lifetime the deaths of many enemies and more than a few comrades, he no longer felt intoxicated by the power of life and death, or the need to wield it indiscriminately. An execution was but a tool, and he understood its limitations. And while he did not believe in God he did believe in martyrs.

The cowboy would not be executed. The dead men had disobeyed orders. The cowboy had meted out … a proportional response. But something would have to be done. Something.

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